Work breakdown structure for IT projects (WBS)

WBS for IT projectsAfter defining your IT project’s scope and deliverables it is very important to break down the project’s work into smaller work elements so that everything is more manageable. The breakdown of the work into smaller chunks is called Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the result should look like hierarchical chart or a tree. The WBS is usually divided into levels with the 1st level being the project itself, the 2nd level the project’s major deliverables and the 3rd level the project’s supporting deliverables. You can think each WBS box as a ‘deliverable’ big or small one, with the biggest deliverable being the project itself.

By clearly designing the project’s WBS you can visualize the relationship of the project items and facilitate the evaluation of the cost and time needed. At the lowest level of the WBS you can have the project’s work packages which are the project’s shortest duration tasks. Work packages are suggested not to have a duration largest than 10 days.

Some very important mistakes to avoid when designing the project’s WBS are not to focus on the organization/company structure (eg marketing, production etc) but focus on clear deliverables (eg instead of marketing-online/offline campaign). The WBS elements should be output oriented with concrete deliverables.

Some important guidelines when designing your IT project’s WBS are:

  • Clearly identify the most important project’s output, maybe something that the user can see/interact with
  • Identify the activities that can be run/developed in parallel and decompose them
  • Work with the whole project team
  • Although you can see many examples of WBS that use elements like ‘Planning phase’, ‘Design phase’ etc you can try to be as specific as possible, since they are not truly deliverables/output, you should avoid such practice
  • Check out other WBS examples and test for yourself what fits better for your organization/team

At the lowest level of the WBS, the work packages should follow the following rules:

  • Its total time and cost can clearly be defined
  • Cannot be broken down more
  • Involves usually one person
  • Its execution can clearly be monitored from start to finish

You can see a clearly defined WBS for a project involving the development of the computer at the following image:

The following chart is a part of a Sample Web Project

Sample web project WBS

Check other WBS examples at Bright Hub PM and Expert Project Management

You can use tools like OpenProj (free) or WBS Chart Pro to create your WBS charts easily.

Feel free to ask any questions about Work Breakdown Structure for IT projects below!

2 comments

Leave a comment

Comment form

All fields marked (*) are required